Internet Self Improvement

How to Read a Little and Learn a Lot From Your Email Inbox

Varna Raman 02-09-2016

We spend a remarkable amount of time in our inboxes. A study by McKinsey found that the humble inbox swallows a third of our entire work-week.


What if you could utilize that time to catch-up on an interest, further a hobby, or brush up work-related skills?

A great way to do this is to attract the right kind of information, right into your inbox. To do that, consider unsubscribing from all the stuff you don’t read. Adopt some of these easy decluttering tips for newsletters 4 Decluttering Tips for Newsletters If You Don't Want to Trash Them How many e-mail subscriptions do you have? If you're like me, you have absolutely no idea, but you know that it's a lot. It's time to take action. Read More , then subscribe to some interesting reading.

We’ve covered fascinating newsletters before for programming The Best Programming Newsletters for Every Kind of Developer A good programming newsletter is curated by someone who knows the topic inside and out. You don't have to waste your time hunting for knowledge. We have picked the best 13 newsletters for you. Read More , micro-learning courses that get delivered to your inbox Reap the Benefits of Microlearning with Bite-Size Lessons Every Day A little learning is always better than no learning. That's how the idea of using little snatches of time for bite-sized learning every day becomes a good habit to start. Read More , and ten fascinating newsletters on a variety of topics Learn Something New With 10 Worth-It Email Newsletters You will be surprised at the quality of newsletters today. They are making a comeback. Subscribe to these ten fantastic newsletters and find out why. Read More , all of which are excellent recommendations — so do check them out!

I’m going to introduce you to 20+ engrossing newsletters run by renowned people and organizations. Each of these cover different issues, but what is common to them is a tilt towards the quirky side of our world.

I categorized the newsletters into three categories.


The first category brings the latest news, the second has newsletters that focus on media (films, books, culture, art), and the final category includes newsletters that focus on productivity and self-improvement.

News About News


Journalists and reporters should love Poynter’s newsletters. But as someone with an interest in global affairs, I find them interesting too. The media site offers three different newsletters.

Morning MediaWire is a daily media briefing and too heavy for someone who is not a journalist. The other two -– The Week in Fact-Checking and Afternoon Poynter Headlines — are shorter and feature a lot of original and rich content.



The folks at Poynter have serious journalistic credentials and their newsletters are amazingly informative. If you are looking for more in the media genre, Poynter also has a nice compilation of other media newsletters you can subscribe to.

Inside Daily Brief

The Inside newsletter is a daily newsletter curated by hand and not algorithms. The newsletter typically includes news, links, alerts and opinion in an easy to read digest. Take a look at past issues featuring the news about the Zika mosquito, sunflowers, and the Pangea or the one about Warren Buffet and Windows 10 [No Longer Available].


Pick this if you had to read one newsletter to cover an entire day.


The Hustle

The Hustle speaks to the start-up community with its business and tech news. You will find content to interest you even if you are not an entrepreneur yourself because of its contemporary focus on digital living and lifestyle. I found the issue on Soylent and Google’s secret interview process fascinating.


The thematic focus on long-form style writing makes the newsletter novel too.


Choose from technology, branding, and content publishing newsletters.



The Daily newsletter is a nice and short digital briefing from the bleeding edge of media and marketing. They strive to cover the “latest” based on facts and less on hype. The focus on publishing, advertising, and digital platform industries makes this a keeper.


Flipboard is a popular Android and iOS app that lets anyone specify topics and create their personalized news magazine on the go. Their newsletter is lesser known.

The Flipboard newsletter is produced in-house and includes editor’s picks of the best Flipboard magazines from the community as well as tips and tricks on content curation. If you already use Flipboard, then you’ll receive recommendations on topics of interest to you as well.


Highly recommended if you are an avid reader — sign up here.


We could all do with a little bit of humor first thing in the morning and the PNut (pronounced “peanut”) delivers just that. The newsletter is about global affairs. Here is a particularly funny PNut original about fictional presidents you could elect in 2016 and everything you need to know about Brexit.


There is no real reason not to sign-up — so go right ahead.

Your Daily Dose of Media and Culture

BrainPickings Weekly

Curated and written by the legendary Maria Popova, Brain Pickings is probably the single most fascinating collection of writing and opinion on media, books, history, culture, and random things on the Internet. Here is Maria’s description of herself and the backstory behind the newsletter.

Brain Pickings

Among her most brilliant writing of all times includes the 2015 review of what was best on Brain Pickings and her list of the best children’s books. Maria’s weekly newsletter is free and packed with wonderful long-form essays on art, books, literature and the Internet. Here is what a sample newsletter looks like and it is highly recommended.

Letters of Note

Letters of Note will appeal to those who enjoy history. It is an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos with a fascinating history. Some of the most interesting posts have been To My Master (set in 1865, a Colonel P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to his former slave, Jourdon Anderson), Pixar Films (a young man named Adam wrote to Pete Docter, the award-winning director of Monsters, Inc. and Up), and of course 8-year-old Teresa (a fan of the teen actor of Stand By Me, Star Trek: The Next Generation awaits her membership into the Wheaton’s official fan club for 21 years).

Letters of Note

The Letters of Note Archive lets you search for letters by category, date, type, personality, and more.


Flavorwire is your weekly/daily dose of pop culture. Flavorwire’s multiple newsletter options, from a separate website called FlavorPill, features global coverage of art, books, music, films and even the occasional weird event or latest internet fad.

Written in an accessible style and packed with fun and original content, the newsletters make it a joy to stay updated on pop-culture and help us remain relevant in today’s connected world.

FlavorPill Media

FlavorWire’s sister concern EverUp also runs a health and productivity driven newsletter that is also interesting.


Narratively is a digital publication and storytelling studio that “prides itself on looking beyond the news headlines and click bait, focusing instead on ordinary people with extraordinary stories”. They send out a weekly/daily digest featuring some extraordinary writing by ordinary people.

When you are in the mood for some hard-hitting non-fiction, Narratively makes a wonderful choice and resides right in your inbox.

As an example, check out the editor’s picks on stories that will restore your faith in humanity. Head to the website to be greeted by an option to sign-up.


If stories of this nature, appeal to you, consider also the Cowbird Daily [Broken URL Removed] and the Human Experience Project.

The Verge

The Verge is a very well-known technology, science-art/culture driven long-form platform. Sign-up is straightforward as is the option to opt-out, both of which you can do here. The First Click newsletter is a roundup of fascinating stories that happen around us and original essays from the team.

The Verge

The daily newsletter features the best of The Verge and is one of the most aesthetically pleasing newsletters that can hit your inbox every day.


ReDef hosts a wonderful series of newsletters focused on fashion, media, technology and popular interest. Follow @JasonHirschhorn on Twitter to get a sense of the kind of information you will receive if you subscribe.


If being hip is your thing, I recommend you subscribe.

The THING Quarterly

The Thing is a magazine focused on making art accessible through function, hence the name THING. In their own words, the magazine is — “an artist-run publication in the form of objects…it’s like a magazine, except that each issue is conceived of by a different contributor and published as a useful object”.

The newsletter is quirky and a window into contemporary art. You can sign up at the homepage. Past “issues” have included a fully-functional Gingham soccer ball and a set of cards for parallel blackjack.

The THING Quarterly

This newsletter is heartily recommended for casual reading.


CityLab runs a newsletter about urban spaces. It is dedicated to the idea of the city and the future. One can opt to receive a daily news update or a weekly digest.

CityLab journalists “focus on the biggest ideas and most pressing issues facing the world’s metro areas and neighborhoods”, making it a must-read for most digital natives today. To sample the content, check out the city fixer pages, that cover the most innovative solutions to urban problems such as poverty, mass transit, and even aging.


Given that CityLab is formerly from The Atlantic, the writing quality is spectacular. The newsletter is also a good summary of the latest trending news on the website.


If you like surprises, you will really dig Awl. A study in modern randomness, the Awl changes in theme, format, and frequency every week. That’s why they call it “Everything Changes”.

The content is varied but largely excellent. For example, read this story on advice to young people or this piece about the word “problematic”.


Sign up to be surprised every week.

A Better You


SmartBrief is an incredible resource for busy professionals. They send daily in-depth briefings for every specialized industry area. Smart Brief covers a wealth of topics including accounting, healthcare, education, insurance, legal, food services, technology and even travel and hospitality.

Here’s an example from “Education” which is my interest area:


If you need to stay up to date on your industry, but don’t have the time to trawl the web every day, I recommend you spend some time and set up these subscriptions. You won’t regret it.

Zen Habits

Zen Habits is one of those blogs and newsletters that facilitates my dose of daily self-reflection. You will receive two e-mails a week on the importance of mindfulness and simplicity.

The e-mails are beautifully written, for an example see this one on “Mental Badassery: Becoming Aware of the Stories We Tell Ourselves” and “What Productivity Systems Won’t Solve“.

Zen Habits

If you need a little inspiration to better your life, start with ZenHabits in your inbox.


Sidebar is a well-known design resource, with a popular design newsletter. It is simple and features their top five design resource picks for the day.

Here is what the newsletter looks like.


If you a visual artist or designer, subscribing to Sidebar is a no-brainer.


Further is a weekly newsletter that is unique among health and lifestyle newsletters. It focuses on more than just lifestyle tips and health methods by going into the science behind it all. For a sample, read this issue on long life and happiness or this one on Pokémon Go.


If you are interested in not just ways to be healthy, but also the philosophy and science of health, Further makes good reading. Sign-up is free.

Think With Google

Think With Google, is so informative that I am surprised more people don’t already know about it. Sign-up for high-powered insights from Google on branding, video, consumer insights, measurement, retail, sales, mobile and static technologies.

If you are responsible in your work-role for any sort of strategic technology implementation, follow the clear and bold insights that are actionable immediately.

Think With Google

Read this article on consumer insights from Google BrandLab to get a sense of what sort of material you will receive if you sign up. Highly recommended.

Learn Faster, Achieve More

Scott Young runs a fascinating newsletter on personal productivity focused around “how to learn well”. A journalist, writer and publisher of several thousand pieces of the written word, programmer, and traveler, Scott’s blog and newsletter is an attempt to chronicle all he has (in Tim Ferris style) learned about the art of learning.

The newsletter is interesting and includes several long-form examples and case-studies of ultra-learning, rapid learning, and other learning strategies.

Learn Faster Achieve More

Recommended for those interested in experimenting with learning education. You can sign-up on his blog with the link at the bottom.

The Joy of Learning From Your Inbox

If you are like me, you will end up liking a lot of newsletters. But you still don’t want to end up with an overflowing inbox with millions of unread items.

Consider three separate strategies.

The wonderful thing about newsletters is that someone has already made the effort of curating things for you. The ease-of-access to this knowledge in your inbox outshines any other medium which requires several clicks.

Are there any outstanding newsletters that you read? Any particular e-mail that forms a part of your morning routine? Do share in the comments below!

Related topics: Education Technology, Email Tips, Gmail, Newsletter.

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  1. Zhong
    September 3, 2016 at 3:03 am

    Have you guys consider putting TheSkimm on this article? It highlights top stories in a more human level.